Do you have a love for prospects and the Florida Panthers? Are you interested in finding out more about the future of the Panthers’ organization? Then you’ve come to the right place.
‘In The Pipeline’ is a new series that will help you get to know the prospects biding their time in the Panthers’ system. Whether they’re in a Canadian junior league, attending college, working their way through the minor league system, or playing in an international league, you’ll find out everything you need to know about styles of play, potential, and more.
For the first ‘In The Pipeline,’ we’ll take a look at Jayce Hawryluk of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
On the morning of Friday, June 28th, Jayce Hawryluk was promised by the Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon that if the young forward was available come the 2nd round of the 2014 NHL Draft, they’d select him. Sure enough, Hawryluk was available, and the Panthers walked away from the 2nd round as happy campers, and rightfully so. At the draft, Hawryluk already had 2 seasons of experience in the WHL, one of the 3 leagues that comprises the Canadian Hockey League.
He has steadily improved each season as well, and that’s important for young players. After tallying 43 points in 61 games during his first season in the league, Hawryluk recorded 6 more goals and 15 more assists in his second season despite playing in 2 less games. He also lead the Wheat Kings in points during the 2013-14 season and had his first 30-goal season in 2014-15. This season, Hawryluk is on pace to score 38 goals, which would surpass his current career-high of 30 goals by 8, and 75 total points which would best hit career-high by 10 points. He’s played on the Wheat Kings’ second line this season with Nolan Patrick and Tyler Coulter, and although he was drafted as a center, he’s been playing primarily on the right wing.
Hawryluk has also played internationally for Canada on a few occasions. He played for the Canada Western team at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in 2013, as well as Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2014, and the IIHF U-18 World Championships in 2014. Hawryluk was invited to Canada’s summer development camp in August 2015, which we wrote about here, and was eventually invited to the team for this year’s U-20 tournament (which wrapped up a few weeks ago), but was a part of the final roster cuts. Since he’ll turn 21 in the year of the next tournament’s ending, he’s no longer eligible to participate in the U-20 World Junior Championships.
Jayce Hawryluk is one of the more well-known prospects in the Panthers’ system, and that’s due mostly in part to his style of play. Through his time in the WHL, he’s been able to bring energy and offense to the Brandon Wheat Kings. His offensive game is marked by his strong playmaking ability and his heavy wrist shot allows him to score from pretty much anywhere in the offensive zone.
Here are 2 assists by Hawryluk from a couple of weeks ago:
In this one, Hawryluk is forced to quickly settle the bouncing puck and then get it off his stick to his teammate on the other side of the net before it’s too late. The pass couldn’t be anymore perfect; it was tape-to-tape and was as close as he could get it to his teammate without it deflecting off the defender’s skates.
The assist above was from later in the same game, and it shows off Hawryluk’s poise and patience with the puck. He nearly made a full circle around the offensive zone before threading the puck to a teammate at the front of the net for an easy one-timer. He stole the attention of two defenders one after the other and that put them out of position which allowed Hawryluk’s teammate to be in the right spot for his eventual pass.
This goal highlights Hawryluk’s ability to blow the puck right by a goaltender. As you can see right after the puck goes into the net, the goaltender was attempting to cut off the angle and was positioned fairly well at the top of his crease. Sometimes, however, even good positioning isn’t enough to stop a a well-placed wrist shot.
He doesn’t score every goal by rifling the puck into the net, though. A lot of times, he takes advantage of soft spots in the defensive coverage which is an important ability to have. In the clip above, you can see that after the initial shot by his teammate, Hawryluk follows through to the net and somehow sneaks in between two defenders which allows him to backhand the puck into the net.
In this goal clip, Hawryluk knows that once he passes the puck to his teammate in the slot, which is a dangerous area compared to other parts of the offensive zone, the opponent will want to prevent a scoring chance. By giving the puck away, he forced the player (#5 in white) that should’ve gone to cover him to instead focus his attention on the man with the puck in the slot. Hawryluk then continued on his path to the side of the net and was left wide open and ready for the pass back.
His offense isn’t the only part of his game, however. Hawryluk loves to forecheck, pressure the puck carrier, and get physical. Unfortunately it’s gotten him a couple of suspensions, and toning it down slightly is something he’ll likely work on as he develops, but when he executes things right, he’s a great energy player.
The hit above is probably his most notable one of the season, and it’s not something you’d expect out of a guy who’s only 5’10”, but he’ll bring that mentality game in and game out. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and throw the body to change the course of the game. Combine that ability with his fast, smooth skating and you get a player who’s capable of carrying the puck up the ice or disrupting things on the forecheck, both of which he does in the clip below:
He follows the puck over the red line, and he knows that the defender knows they’re being pressure, so he puts his stick out in anticipation of the player attempting to move the puck to his partner quickly. He ends up intercepting the pass and sending a wrist shot past the goaltender for the game-winning goal.
So, when will Hawryluk join the Panthers? Well, this season will be his last in the WHL since it’s his 4th year, and then he’ll likely make the jump to the Panthers’ AHL affiliate Portland Pirates next season. The Panthers have yet to sign Hawryluk to an entry-level contract, and they’ll likely do so once his season in the WHL ends. It’s more than likely that Hawryluk will spend at least a year in the AHL before seriously competing for a spot with the Panthers, but he may get an extended look if he impresses during training camp. As far as where he’ll fit when he is ready for the NHL, somewhere in the middle-6 seems to be the most likely landing spot, but of course that could change depending on the role he plays in the pros.